Top award for Needingworth wetland project
PLANS to restore Hanson Aggregates’ Needingworth sand and gravel quarry, in Cambridgeshire, to a 700ha reed-bed wetland over the next 30 years have been given a top award by the Royal Town Planning Institute — an RTPI Planning Achievement Award for Industry and Biodiversity in Partnership.
From an original 80 entries submitted for schemes throughout the UK and Ireland, the Needingworth project was one of 10 category winners. The scheme was submitted by the RSPB on behalf of Hanson and Cambridgeshire County Council.
‘In making the award the judges said: ‘It is not often that a proposal on the scale of that at Needingworth is allowed to proceed with scarcely a ripple of public discontent or environmental anxiety, and without the heavy hand of the Secretary of State seeking to treat the scheme as a departure.
‘That is a tribute to those involved and a measure of the achievement in circumstances where nearly 28 million tonnes of sand and gravel from almost 1,000ha of land either side of the river Great Ouse will be extracted by Hanson Aggregates over the next 30 years.’
The restoration programme will progressively create a nature reserve of some 700ha, including around 460ha of freshwater reed-beds, providing almost 40% of the Government’s target for such habitats and creating one of the largest man-made wetlands in Europe.
John Hopkins, managing director of Hanson Aggregates Central, said: ‘Cambridgeshire’s environment will be enhanced by the creation of this remarkable wetland landscape. The local community will also benefit with the introduction of public access as phased quarrying and wetland-creation programmes progress.’
Fred Brown, chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Development Control Committee, described the award as a ‘fabulous endorsement’ for the wetland nature reserve, saying it was testament to the quality of the scheme, the project design and sustained effective partnership between the County Council, Hanson Aggregates and the RSPB.